Press Release: Joint Robotic Mars Lander Mission

From: Jan Wee <>
Subject: Press Release: Joint Robotic Mars Lander Mission
Date: Tue, 25 Mar 1997 08:44:44 -0600

Dear discuss-lfm members,


Douglas Isbell
Headquarters, Washington, DC                    March 25, 1997
(Phone: 202/358-1753)

Michael Braukus
Headquarters, Washington, DC
(Phone: 202/358-1979)

RELEASE: 97-51


    In a cooperative activity intended to advance scientific 
knowledge and help lay the groundwork for a future decision on 
whether to send humans to Mars, NASA's Space Science and Human 
Exploration and Development of Space (HEDS) enterprises have 
agreed to jointly fund and manage two robotic missions to Mars due 
for launch in 2001. 

    "For the first time since the 1960s, NASA's space science and 
human space flight programs are cooperating directly on the 
exploration of another planetary body," said 
Dr. Wesley T. Huntress Jr., NASA associate administrator for space 
science.  "Mars is a challenging destination for any type of 
spacecraft to reach, and it makes a great deal of sense for us to 
pursue the maximum possible return of knowledge from any chance to 
go there."

    "This joint effort is a sign that NASA is acquiring the 
information that will be needed for a national decision, perhaps 
in a decade or so, on whether or not to send humans to Mars," said 
Wilbur Trafton, associate administrator for space flight.  "Early 
in the next century, once the International Space Station is 
deployed and operating, the question of our next major goal in 
human space flight will come up.  This partnership is a major step 
toward ensuring that we have the information needed to answer that 

    NASA intends to launch two separate spacecraft to Mars, a 
small orbiter and a small lander, in March and April 2001, 

    The Mars Surveyor 2001 Lander will deliver a small, advanced 
technology rover capable of traveling several tens of miles across 
the Martian highlands.  The rover will be able to collect rock and 
soil samples for later return to Earth by a future robotic 

    Under the new internal NASA agreement, the 2001 Lander will 
now also be a platform for instruments and technology experiments 
designed to provide key insights to decisions regarding successful 
and cost-effective human missions to Mars.  Hardware on the lander 
will be used for an in-situ demonstration test of rocket 
propellant production using gases in the Martian atmosphere.  
Other equipment will characterize the planet's soil properties and 
surface radiation environment. 

    "Before we can send humans into deep space, we need to 
understand the nature of the space environment and its effect on 
living systems," said Arnauld Nicogossian, M.D., acting associate 
administrator for life and microgravity sciences.  "The Mars 2001 
mission will give us invaluable information about the radiation 
environment of space and the surface on Mars."

    Analyses of Martian dust and soil are necessary to understand 
any interactions with the systems currently planned that will 
supply the habitation and working environment for future human 

    A companion mission to the lander known as the Mars Surveyor 
2001 Orbiter will be launched in March 2001.  The 2001 Orbiter 
will be the first to use the atmosphere of Mars to slow down and 
directly capture the spacecraft into orbit, in a technique called 
aerocapture.  The scientific objectives of the mission are to 
conduct mineralogical mapping of the entire planet and 
characterize its orbital radiation environment.  The 2001 Orbiter 
also will carry a radio relay to support the lander and a possible 
Russian robotic rover mission.

    The preliminary cost estimate for both integrated missions is 
approximately $311 million, not including launch costs. An 
integrated team of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, 
CA; the Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX; and Lockheed Martin 
Astronautics, Denver, will develop the missions, led by JPL.

    Both of the 2001 missions are part of an ongoing NASA series 
of robotic Mars exploration spacecraft that began with the 
launches of the Mars Global Surveyor orbiter and the Mars 
Pathfinder lander in November and December 1996, respectively.  
Mars Pathfinder and its 25-pound rover, named Sojourner, will land 
on Mars in a region called Ares Vallis on July 4, 1997.